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Jack Nicklaus helps Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy

Masters countdown: Six-time champ Jack's doing his bit for Luke and Rory

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UPDATED:

21:32 GMT, 2 April 2012

If Luke Donald or Rory McIlroy should win the green jacket at the Masters the contribution of the greatest Master of all should not be underestimated.

Six-time champion Jack Nicklaus has not only offered counsel to the top two players in the world, he has even built them their own practice facility.

Or so it might feel to fellow members of the Bear’s Club in South Florida, where McIlroy and Donald have been warming up for Augusta, spending countless hours side by side on the practice areas.

Champion: Jack Nicklaus receives the green jacket

Champion: Jack Nicklaus receives the green jacket

‘I think Luke is wearing the place out,’ said Nicklaus, when asked about Donald’s dedication.

‘Every time I’m there he’s out practising his chipping and putting. It’s not luck as to why he has such a magical short game.’

Donald’s home from home is the par-three course, where his routine is as meticulously structured as every other part of his life.

Three balls are struck every three yards to leave a divot pattern that has become part of Donald’s golfing DNA.

After 30 balls, he counts how many shots stop inside a six-foot ring he places around each hole. He does this for hours, changing the distance and the style of shot, before recording the results in a performance diary.

‘I like Jack’s place because it simulates real golf,’ said Donald. ‘The greens take spin, they have contours and they change the pins almost every day, so I’m hitting different shots.’

Anything I can do to help, you can almost hear Jack saying.

The pair first met at a charity
function in Chicago. ‘We were in a car together and I asked him for
advice and how he was so successful in majors,’ said Donald.

‘He told me my driving accuracy was
probably the key area I needed to work on. That’s something I knew
myself, but hearing it from Jack gave more substance to it.

Glad: Luke Donald was grateful for Nicklaus' advice

Glad: Luke Donald was grateful for Nicklaus' advice

‘I see him around the Bear’s Club quite a lot and he’s happy to give you advice if you ask him. When it comes to preparation and things like that, it can’t but help to learn from the most successful golfer who ever lived.’

Nicklaus has also been a regular source of wisdom for McIlroy since he first set foot in America as a pro. The Golden Bear was one of the first people the 22-year-old sought out last year following his Masters meltdown.

They talked through that last round and Nicklaus told him about setting himself incremental targets in the future as the final round progressed, so he wouldn’t get ahead of himself.

It was advice McIlroy took on board at the US Open and will use again this week should he get into contention.

He’s another huge fan of the Bear’s Club – a prime reason why he settled on south Florida as his base for three months of the year.

During the first week of his three-week break from competitive golf, McIlroy worked on his long game there with his coach, Michael Bannon, before honing his short-game skills last week.

Nicklaus smiles when asked what he says to the likes of Donald and McIlroy, plus others like defending champion Charl Schwartzel and US PGA winner Keegan Bradley, that has such a profound effect.

‘I’m not sure what it is they get out of it but if it helps it certainly makes me happy,’ he said.

Let’s hope it makes the whole of the UK happy come Sunday night.

Assistance: Rory McIlroy is also grateful for Nicklaus' help

Assistance: Rory McIlroy is also grateful for Nicklaus' help

Missing faces

Ernie Els is not the only familiar face missing from Augusta this year. Fanny Sunesson, who caddied for Nick Faldo for each of his three Masters triumphs and who now works for Henrik Stenson, is at home nursing an injured back.

‘She has some nerve damage and it will be a while before we see her again,’ said Stenson. ‘She injured it in Switzerland last year and the most important thing now is for her to regain full mobility to do day-to-day things. When that happens we can see if she can come back and do some caddying and, if so, how much.’

There'll be no golf on the BBC soon

At a time when the game in the UK is at an all-time high, how can it possibly be right that interest in the game at the BBC is at an all-time low As we gear ourselves up to see how the world’s top three players fare at the Masters news comes from our national broadcaster they are pulling out of live European Tour coverage.

So much for watching Rory, Luke and Lee on the BBC. The only time you’ll see them now is this weekend at the Masters, all four days of The Open in July, the odd highlights package and that’s your lot. Talk about losing the plot.

The contempt in which they hold the game will be evident at the weekend, too. Guess who’s been drafted in to ask questions of the players

Big miss: Henrik Stenson will not have his caddie Fanni Sunesson

Big miss: Henrik Stenson will not have his caddie Fanni Sunesson

Actually, you’d never guess – former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan.

How silly of me to think he would be more gainfully employed giving his expert analysis for Test Match Special at the second Test in Sri Lanka.

Contrast the BBC’s approach with the veritable army of people, golfing and otherwise, Sky have sent over for their coverage of this event.

Give it another two years and what price the Masters disappearing from BBC screens as well, with The Open no doubt not too far behind

Can Billy justify this ban on women now

What are the chances of Masters chairman Billy Payne opening his remarks to the press on Tuesday with a statement that would resonate throughout the sporting world and beyond: namely, the unveiling of the club’s first woman member

Not great, perhaps, given it is the club’s stated policy not to comment on membership issues and there are some who believe Paris will get another Eiffel Tower before Augusta gets a woman member.

Payne, however, has surprised us before, as he showed with his stinging criticism of Tiger Woods two years ago, and there is no question that the subject of women members has become a thorny issue once more.

That is because the last four CEOs of IBM – a long-time corporate sponsor of the Masters – have become members of the club and, wouldn’t you know it, the latest to hold that post just happens to be a golf-playing woman of all things. How can Augusta not invite her to become a member without appearing perpetrators of a cast-iron example of discrimination based on a person’s sex

Fair Ryo Ishikawa has been invited by Ernie Els has missed out

Fair Ryo Ishikawa has been invited by Ernie Els has missed out

It is not the only tricky matter facing Payne. The second concerns the controversial invitation given to the Japanese starlet Ryo Ishikawa.

What possible justification can there be for him receiving a second one at the age of just 20 except as a sop to the massive commercial power of Japanese television

Unlike many of my colleagues, I have no problem with Ernie Els not being given one, despite his mighty contribution to the tournament over the years.

But the argument that Ernie shouldn’t get one is based on the belief that nobody should get one and so falls down completely when Ishikawa is handed a spot.

Over to you, Billy.

Quote of the Week

‘I’d expect him to play well here. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t. He’s powerful again, he’s driving the ball well and he’s got that little bit of pep in his stride again.’

After playing a practice round with Tiger Woods on Sunday, his long-time publicist – sorry, Mark O’Meara – banged the drum regarding Tiger’s chances of a fifth green jacket.

Phil Mickelson gets in Masters mode at Shell Houston Open

Back in the Mick of time! Phil the Thrill gets in Masters mode at Houston Open

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UPDATED:

18:54 GMT, 30 March 2012

You can always tell when the Masters is just around the corner – Phil Mickelson comes out of hibernation.

The three-time green jacket holder was never a factor during the Florida swing, but look who has wiped the sleep from his eyes in time to enjoy the azaleas

To the delight of crowds at the Shell Houston Open, the defending champion finally got to play his first round – a brilliantly executed 65 that added up to a wonderful confidence boost for the bigger challenge ahead.

Escape: Phil Mickelson plays out of a fairway bunker on the 15th hole

Escape: Phil Mickelson plays out of a fairway bunker on the 15th hole

HOUSTON OPEN LEADERBOARD

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Winning directly before a major always appears a poisoned chalice given how few players go on to win the following week and it certainly didn't appear to do Mickelson much good last year.

But he is one of only two – the other is Sandy Lyle – who have won the week before Augusta and the Masters itself so his many supporters won't be too concerned if he were to pull off a successful defence.

Crowd pleaser: Mickelson putts on the 17th green at the Houston Open

Crowd pleaser: Mickelson putts on the 17th green at the Houston Open

'I like to stay competitive before a
major,' he argued. 'It's a personal thing but 10 days would be too big a
gap for me before the Masters. And I played really well here. I hit it
well and felt really good with the putter.'

Another who enjoyed a good morning on the greens was Englishman Greg Owen, who shot 66 and is relishing being back on tour after regaining his privileges at last year's qualifying school.

'It was hard work because this is the tour where you want to be playing your golf,' he said.

Good morning: Greg Owen of England watches his tee shot on the eighth hole

Good morning: Greg Owen of England watches his tee shot on the eighth hole

After the long suspension for a storm on day one, the players had to go straight back out to play their second rounds as the tournament played catch-up.

In the same boat were England's Brian Davis (68), Padraig Harrington (69) and Darren Clarke (72).

Sportsmail goes to Boston to gauge the mood of Liverpool"s US owners

They don't do losers here: Sportsmail goes to Boston to gauge the mood of Liverpool's US owners as questions grow over the reign of King Kenny

By
Neil Ashton

PUBLISHED:

21:51 GMT, 30 March 2012

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UPDATED:

22:18 GMT, 30 March 2012

Questions to answer: Kenny Dalglish

Questions to answer: Kenny Dalglish

In the streets surrounding Fenway Park, everybody is gearing up for the start of the new baseball season.

Under the shadows of the historic stands coated in fresh green paint, crates of Bud and bulging popcorn buckets are being loaded on to concourses.

This is home to the Boston Red Sox, the billion-dollar franchise belonging to Liverpool owner John W Henry.

Boston is gripped with anticipation as it counts down to the opening home game against Tampa Bay Rays on April 13.

Around
1,200 miles down the coast, in Fort Myers, Florida, new manager Bobby
Valentine is assessing the Red Sox squad as part of their spring
training schedule.

Valentine,
in charge of a roster of players who chew through the second biggest
budget in baseball (111million) each season, is already jousting with
the media.

'It's an
easy story to write,' was his dismissive response to claims in the
Boston Globe that he has fallen out with general manager Ben Cherington.

Valentine is a Henry
appointment brought in to revive the fortunes of a team who ended last
season without making the holy grail of the post-season play-offs.

They
don't tolerate losing in these parts.

Star turns, such as John Lackey
(signed from the LA Angels on a contract worth 51.5m in 2010) and Carl
Crawford (bought from Tampa Bay Rays in 2011 in a deal worth 88.7m)
have barely registered among fans at Fenway Park.

Henry's response to the downturn was to fire Terry Francona, who took them to two World Series triumphs between 2004 and 2011, and replace him with Valentine, 61, a man who had not managed an American team since he was fired by the New York Mets a decade ago and who some fear is too detached from modern baseball methods.

Sox appeal: Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox

Sox appeal: Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox

At every turn, John W Henry's trophies are on display. In Red Sox bars there are pictures of the owner celebrating with the Commissioner's Trophy, the prize for winning the World Series in 2004 and 2007.

This week, in Boston Magazine, he was named the 18th most influential person in the city, recognition for turning an ailing baseball brand into a billion-dollar business inside a decade.

Elsewhere there are pictures of his glamorous wife Linda Pizzuti, 29 years the moneyman's junior and 'hopelessly in love' (with her husband).

Henry, part of a group of friends including business partner Tom Werner and nightclub owner Ed Kane labelled the Cirque de Rire (Circus of Laughs), has celebrity status in town.

Hopelessly in love: Linda Pizzuti and John Henry

Hopelessly in love: Linda Pizzuti and John Henry

His 164ft yacht Iroquois is frequently berthed at the exclusive Rowes Wharf complex and his apartment at the Mandarin Oriental is one of the most desirable in the city.

Despite the success, there is one trophy Henry – along with Liverpool chairman Tom Werner and the other 17 partners at Fenway Sports Group – wants to compete for more than any other.

The Champions League is the moneyball that just keeps rolling, crushing the fistful of dollars the Red Sox make in the American League's Eastern Division.

Henry has developed an obsession with football played in the European theatre, drawn by its commercial appeal and the colours of the club he bought in October 2010 for 300m.

In downtown Boston, there is a flavour of Liverpool in their own supporters bar, the Phoenix Landing.

A framed Kenny Dalglish shirt from the Seventies is hanging on a wall and the pub quiz master is drowned out when he asks: 'Which is the biggest sporting team in the United Kingdom'

Henry, whose strength is in team matters and contracts, and Werner, strong in the commercial field, aim to make sure the answer will once again be Liverpool.

Indeed, there are fears over here that his commitment to the Red Sox is on the wane, seduced by the prospect of Champions League football.

Dan Shaughnessy, a columnist on the Boston Globe, said: 'Henry has been a very good owner and he's a brilliant businessman, but people fear he has become less passionate about the Red Sox. He attends most of the games at Fenway Park, but his eyes are drifting away from the Red Sox, the job is done. Now it's about Liverpool and making them a success.'

Henry maintains that Fenway Sports Group, which also owns the Roush Fenway NASCAR racing team, is simply spreading its wings, but he has done the maths.

Trigger point: Dalglish must must answer to owners Henry (left) and Werner, who also own the Red Sox

Trigger point: Dalglish must must answer to owners Henry (left) and Werner, who also own the Red Sox

Barcelona's broadcast revenue in their 2011 European Cup-winning season was a staggering 148.6m.

Liverpool, without the benefit of the Champions League, still received 81m.

Global television audiences for last season's final between Barcelona and Manchester United topped out at 400m.

Little wonder Henry's eyeballs popped out, comparing peak television audiences in America of 28m for the Red Sox's World Series win over St Louis Cardinals in 2004.

Henry is often up at 3am, flitting between reports on Japanese money markets, monitoring Liverpool's progress or sitting at the steering wheel of a computer game mimicking his NASCAR racing team.

At Anfield, Dalglish is still in the driving seat, worshipped by the supporters who chant his surname, just as they did when he scored goals.

There is a deep emotional attachment, an affiliation with the club that Henry recognises as a strength in Fenway's pursuit of excellence.

Not lived up to their billing: Andy Carroll (left) and Stewart Downing (right)

Not lived up to their billing: Andy Carroll (left) and Stewart Downing (right)

Not lived up to their billing: Andy Carroll (left) and Stewart Downing (right)

Henry and Co realise the commercial and historical significance attached to Liverpool's five European Cup wins and want Dalglish to secure number six.

In Fenway circles, there is little attempt to conceal their disappointment that the route back into the Champions League has been blocked by poor form.

Liverpool's capitulation against QPR caused more than a ripple in the offices of Fenway Sports Group and the manner of a home defeat to Wigan certainly made waves.

'John Henry doesn't need to be a football expert to know that some of the signings, such as Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing, have not worked out,' admitted one Fenway source.

'Champions League football is the priority and defeats to QPR and Wigan are not results a top-four team should be recording. John Henry is not shy to pull the trigger.'

Shock reverse: Gary Caldwell shoots past Liverpool's Pepe Reina as Wigan win 2-1 win at Anfield

Shock reverse: Gary Caldwell shoots past Liverpool's Pepe Reina as Wigan win 2-1 win at Anfield

Shaughnessy concurs: 'They can be bloodless and unemotional when they make decisions. Henry doesn't get caught up in sentiment.'

Despite winning the Carling Cup final on penalties and reaching the FA Cup semi-final against Everton, Dalglish's brief at the start of the season was clear: finish first, second, third or fourth in the Premier League.

With eight games left, starting with a visit to Newcastle on Sunday – it is beyond him, 13 points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham and a staggering 31 behind leaders Manchester United.

This is a difficult balancing act for Henry and Werner, judging the team's short-term success against the planning and the exploitation of their status as a worldwide brand.

Pot luck: Steven Gerrard lifted the Carling Cup but will it be enough to save Dalglish

Pot luck: Steven Gerrard lifted the Carling Cup but will it be enough to save Dalglish

Chief executive Ian Ayre has been in China this week and the club are expected to take in some pre-season games in the Far East, as well as the US, in July.

Critically they recognise the importance of public perception, something Dalglish appears reluctant to address in his increasingly bizarre media briefings.

His stance over Luis Suarez damaged his standing, defending a player described in the 115-page judgement passed by an independent FA regulatory commission as 'unreliable' and 'inconsistent'.

Werner, a TV executive who pioneered the Eighties hit TV series The Cosby Show, was upset.

In the transfer market they backed Dalglish and spent big on Suarez, Carroll, Henderson, Charlie Adam, Jose Enrique and Downing.

Re-modelling: Damien Comolli

Re-modelling: Damien Comolli

So much for Moneyball and the sabremetric approach – the specialist analysis of baseball through objective evidence – adopted by the Red Sox after the famed Oakland Athletics coach Billy Beane turned Henry down in 2002.

Beane recommended his friend Damien Comolli as Liverpool's director of football when Fenway completed its takeover of the club in October 2010, paving the way for more changes at Melwood.

They are re-modelling Liverpool on the success story at the Red Sox, adopting a two-tier management system.

They are in regular touch with Dalglish, Comolli and Ayre and schedule meetings whenever they are on Merseyside.

The Red Sox template has been licensed by Liverpool, brought over from Boston and carefully placed over the existing footprint. Fenway's rampant commercialisation of the Anfield club will see them compete in a shiny new strip manufactured by American firm Warrior Sports next season.

Liverpool will wear it during pre-season when they visit Boston to play Roma on July 25 as part of Fenway Park's 100th anniversary celebrations.

By then, Henry will know for sure whether Liverpool's 61-year-old manager is up to speed.

World of Golf: Tiger Woods is back but the UK"s finest can tame him

Tiger Tamers: Woods is back, but the UK's finest can defy his bid to be Master

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UPDATED:

09:11 GMT, 27 March 2012

All set for Tiger Woods versus the UK for the Masters at Augusta next week No doubt the top Aussies, South Africans and Phil Mickelson in particular will have something to say about that.

But after the most fabulous four weeks of golf Florida has ever known, the state of the game right now is all about Tiger and Rory, Luke and Lee, Justin and G-Mac, in the tussle for the green jacket.

Trust Woods to come running to the rescue of American golf on a truly memorable Sunday at Bay Hill to prevent a Florida Slam for the boys from the UK. Only Tiger stood between them and complete domination of the game in the Sunshine State.

Back to winning ways: Tiger Woods won at Bay Hill

Back to winning ways: Tiger Woods won at Bay Hill

Parochialism aside, who could fail to recognise the beauty in this storyline, the one that rendered the most incredible pre-Masters build-up complete Only the most bitter would begrudge Woods and fail to admire the strength of character shown to see his way back into the sun.

Imagine what it must have been like with every expert on television lining up to say you are working on the wrong things on the practice ground and your new swing is rubbish. Imagine lying on the sofa at home with your knee broken, your achilles worn, your reputation in tatters and trying to envisage a way back to the top.

That impervious mind, the one that brought him 14 majors, saved him. That unimpeachable work ethic, the willingness to spend countless hours working on his new swing, was the foundation stone. So he struggled with the putter. How typical of Woods not to go looking for the weak man’s crutch, the belly putter, and put in the time sorting it out instead.

Leader of the pack: Luke Donald returned to World No 1 last week

Leader of the pack: Luke Donald returned to World No 1 last week

In good form: Rory McIlroy climbed to the top of the world rankings earlier this year - only for Donald to regain his spot

In good form: Rory McIlroy climbed to the top of the world rankings earlier this year – only for Donald to regain his spot

Credit his coach, Sean Foley, as well. What a five-week run he has had, with victories for Hunter Mahan at the Accenture Match Play, Justin Rose at the Cadillac Championship and now Tiger at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Yet on Sunday night, there was no triumphalism.

More from Derek Lawrenson…

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With the 18th hole a sea of people and nearly all of them chanting ‘Tiger! Tiger!’ Foley said this was just the start.

‘Tomorrow is another day, we still have a long way to go and Tiger knows that,’ he said.

‘I’m so pleased for him. He’s putting in the work and will continue to do so.’

After all that had happened in the 30 long months since his last victory, you might have thought this one would have particular significance for Woods. But one of the reasons he has been so successful is he has never thought like that.

When his ex-wife Elin wanted to organise a party to celebrate the first success under his former coach Hank Haney, Woods told her: ‘Winning is what we do, E. Winning is what’s supposed to happen.’

This was his 72nd win on the US Tour — a nice golfing number — and leaves him needing just one more to tie Jack Nicklaus’s haul, with Sam Snead the all-time record holder on 82. Barring no more injuries, expect that to go sometime around the 2014 Ryder Cup.

It is the Nicklaus total of 18 majors,
though — Woods has 14 — that now comes back into focus, and whether he
can start making inroads once more after a hiatus lasting almost four
years.

Woods will go to the Masters as
favourite and justifiably so given that, with four wins, he has four more green jackets than all his challengers from the UK combined.

But
there is no reason for the leading players from these shores to go
there feeling cowed, like so many did in the past following a Tiger
victory at Bay Hill.

Great Brit: Lee Westwood will look to get his name on the Masters title

Great Brit: Lee Westwood will look to get his name on the Masters title

Woods gave an awesome display of
driving but the return of his ball-striking has led to uncertainty on
occasion as to how far he hits his iron shots, and you have no chance if
you do not consistently land it on the number at Augusta.

That unerring ability to chip stone dead from practically anywhere has also been slow to return.

Has
he got enough time this week to fit all the pieces together The fact
there is room for doubt simply adds to the fascination.

In top form: Justin Rose will look to win his first Major

In top form: Justin Rose will look to win his first Major

Over the past month, in turn, we have seen Rory McIlroy beat Woods to become world No 1, Justin Rose beat the world to win in Miami, Luke Donald win to reclaim the top spot and now Woods’s seventh success in Arnold Palmer’s event.

All roads lead, therefore, to what might be the most eagerly anticipated Masters of them all. Tiger versus the UK Thank goodness we have only a week to wait.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

‘Heading home now and I can’t stop smiling. Thanks to Otown fans and everyone watching for all the love. Get well soon, Arnie.’

Tiger
Woods tweets his happiness on returning to the winner’s circle. As for
Arnold Palmer, the 82-year-old was due to be released from hospital
yesterday after being detained overnight as a precaution owing to high
blood pressure. Arnie’s due at Augusta next week to hit the ceremonial
first blow. Anyone doubt he’ll make it

G-Mac and Poulter show signs of life

Relegated to the undercard on Sunday they might have been, but it was good to see strong signs of life at the Arnold Palmer Invitational from runner-up Graeme McDowell and third-placed Ian Poulter.

G-Mac has that look in his eye again, the one he had before embarking on his banner year in 2010, and don’t be surprised if he joins all the other UK golfing winners this year before the season is much older.

‘I’m really excited about my game again and this performance sets up my spring schedule perfectly,’ said McDowell, who joins Lee Westwood, Paul Casey and others at the Houston Open this week.

Back to life: Graeme McDowell was runner up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Back to life: Graeme McDowell was runner up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Poulter is back in business too after his bout of pneumonia and all the talk regarding him being ‘distracted’.

Speaking of distractions, he was at it again on Monday, although no-one would criticise him this time. Poults was hosting his own charity day with the aim of raising a six-figure sum for a Florida children’s hospital.

Dan Wheldon: IndyCar returns with first race since driver"s death

IndyCar returns with first race since Wheldon's death at driver's adopted home in Florida

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UPDATED:

18:35 GMT, 21 March 2012

IndyCar returns to the track for the first time since Dan Wheldon's tragic death last October – racing through the streets of St Petersburg, Wheldon's adopted Florida hometown.

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Wheldon died from injuries suffered in a crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during the final race of the 2011 season. He was 33.

Wheldon was killed when his head hit a fencepost after his car had flown 325 feet through the air, a report into the British driver’s fatal crash has concluded.

Tribute: IndyCar's first race will held in Wheldon's adopted home in Florida

Tribute: IndyCar's first race will held in Wheldon's adopted home in Florida

A two-month forensic examination of data from the 15-car pile-up in October revealed Buckinghamshire-born Wheldon was travelling at 224mph as he bore down on the chain-reaction crash.

Organisers have announced they will drive a car named for him and navigate their way through Turn 10, recently renamed Dan Wheldon Way. And Holly Wheldon, his little sister, will drop the green flag and present the winner's trophy.

Fans have been asked to wear orange to honour Wheldon and the annual post-race party hosted will carry on in his name.

St Petersburg is the place IndyCar's drivers most associate with Wheldon. It's also the place where they'll attempt to return to some normalcy, even with reminders of Wheldon everywhere they turn.

Tragedy: Wheldon lost his life during the final race of last season in October

Tragedy: Wheldon lost his life during the final race of last season in October

Tragedy: Wheldon lost his life during the final race of last season in October

'It's almost fitting in many ways, the way the calendar has worked out,' New Zealander Scott Dixon said. 'I think it's going to be tough, but I think it's also a nice way to start the season, almost like it was written that way.

'But, yeah, it'll never be the same. Never be the same.'

'It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it,' Brazilian Tony Kanaan said. 'Dan loved this city, and all the times here, spending time with him, there are so many memories. Now, one of those memories is of burying our best friend.

'We'll think about him all the time. All this season. At Indianapolis. But here, this will be hard all the way up until the national anthem, and we'll get in the cars and we'll go race.'

Respect: Formula 1 drivers mourned Wheldon's passing

Respect: Formula 1 drivers mourned Wheldon's passing

Tiger Woods returns from injury at Tavistock Cup in Florida

Tiger back in form alongside Rose in latest injury return at Tavistock Cup in Florida

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UPDATED:

20:13 GMT, 19 March 2012

Tiger Woods returned from injury on Monday and scored a nine under par 63 better-ball in partnership with Justin Rose at the two-day Tavistock Cup in Florida.

Woods was representing Albany against Lake Nona, Isleworth and Queenwood in the annual star-studded four-club challenge.

The former world No 1 was back eight days after pulling out after 11 holes of his final round in the Cadillac Championship with an achilles tendon strain.

Look who's back: Tiger Woods tees off on the first hole during the two-day Tavistock Cup at Lake Nona

Look who's back: Tiger Woods tees off on the first hole during the two-day Tavistock Cup at Lake Nona

Game for a laugh: Woods and fellow American star Bubba Watson share a joke on the tee

Game for a laugh: Woods and fellow American star Bubba Watson share a joke on the tee

'I did the smart thing and prudent thing this time, hence I'm back in a week,' he said. 'I've done it before and played through not just pain, but injury and set myself back quite a bit. That's what I did last year and missed two major championships because of it.

'I want to be ready for Augusta (the US Masters starts two weeks on Thursday). I have to do the right thing. Unfortunately there are times when I've played when I probably shouldn't have and it's cost me.'

Gearing up for Augusta: Woods says his break was a precaution to make sure he was fit for The Masters

Gearing up for Augusta: Woods says his break was a precaution to make sure he was fit for The Masters

Team-mates: Justin Rose (left) and Woods (centre) walk the fairways in Orlando, Florida

Team-mates: Justin Rose (left) and Woods (centre) walk the fairways in Orlando, Florida

Woods and Rose opened with two birdies, had four more in five holes to turn in 30 and reached 10 under before neither could par the 16th.

Isleworth were the early leaders, Sean O'Hair and Bo Van Pelt being 12 under with two to play in the six-a-side competition, which concludes with singles matches on Tuesday.

Rory McIlroy is world No 1 after winning Honda Classic

On top of the world! McIlroy takes over No 1 ranking with victory in Honda Classic

Rory McIlroy became world No 1 on Sunday and he did so in the grandest manner, holding his nerve to win the Honda Classic in the face of a fabulous final round from a charging Tiger Woods.

Could there have been any better way for him to reach the summit at the age of just 22 than by withstanding a thrilling assault from the man he grew up idolising, the player with whom he has been compared to for so long

Throw in the fact it took place at the course in South Florida built by Jack Nicklaus, the greatest player of all time, and the picture is rendered complete.

Top of the tree: Rory McIlroy celebrates with his trophy after winning the Honda Classic

Top of the tree: Rory McIlroy celebrates with his trophy after winning the Honda Classic

HONDA CLASSIC LEADERBOARD

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‘If you look at old videos of me from when I was only 10, I would say to the interviewer my ambitions were to become the best player in the world and win majors,’ said McIlroy.

‘Well, I won a major last year and now I’m world No 1, so this is very special.’

Never let it be said again that McIlroy can’t putt. Here he had 15 putts inside 10 feet during a nervy final round and he holed them all.

World's finest: Rory McIlroy (right) celebrates his win at the Honda Classic with his caddie

World's finest: Rory McIlroy (right) celebrates his win at the Honda Classic with his caddie

Never let it be said either that he doesn’t deserve to end Luke Donald’s 40-week reign at the top. Since injuring his wrist at the US PGA Championship last August McIlroy has finished outside the top five just once in any event he has played, and that was when he was suffering from Dengue fever at the Dubai World Championship in December.

This was his third win during that stretch and there are going to be plenty more for a player who is just getting better by the month.

Falling away: Justin Rose could not maintain his challenge for the Honda Classic on the final day

Falling away: Justin Rose could not maintain his challenge for the Honda Classic on the final day

This was not just a perfect day’s play, it came with the promise of plenty more to come. As if to tell McIlroy they aren’t going to take his ascendancy lieing down, we had not only the lowest round of Woods’s US Tour career, but Lee Westwood tied his best as well.

Woods shot a 62, which included an amazing birdie, eagle finish. This was the Woods of old, answering his many critics.

‘I played like that at the end of last year in Australia and it was good to see it all come together today,’ he said Tiger after finishing second, two shots off the winning score.

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Pure delight: McIlroy celebrates becoming the world's No 1 golfer after his two-stroke win over Tiger Woods

We even saw a couple of vintage fist pumps as putts disappeared at the 17th and 18th holes. Woods set himself the target of a birdie-birdie finish but beat even that with a stupendous iron to eight feet at the last for the only eagle seen on the hole all day.

Westwood was almost as good, hitting 16 out of 18 greens in regulation, which was ludicrously good on a day when the course was protected by a 20mph wind. How good to see him hole his share of putts, too. None was better than the one he rolled in from 40 feet at the 17th. It even came with a Woods-like fist pump as he signed for a 63.

Charge: Tiger Woods was in fine form in the final round but couldn't catch the impressive McIlroy

Charge: Tiger Woods was in fine form in the final round but couldn't catch the impressive McIlroy

This was only his second US Tour start since taking out membership this year and it brought his second top-four finish. Everything is moving along smoothly for the 38-year-old Englishman with the Masters a month away.

Ultimately, however, this was McIlroy’s day. It looked like it might be a cruise as he held a comfortable four-shot lead with eight to play. Then came Woods’s amazing finish and a dropped shot from McIlroy at the 12th to cut the lead to just two with the water-laden holes at the finish, known locally as the ‘Bear Trap’ in honour of the course architect, to complete.

Precision: McIlroy's putting helped him to victory at the Honda Classic

Precision: McIlroy's putting helped him to victory at the Honda Classic

McIlroy gave himself breathing room with two par saves that were Woods-like good. At the 14th he finished in rough around the green so deep he could only see the ball when he stood over it. But he played an unbelievable chip to 4ft and holed the putt. Then at the 15th he found a greenside bunker, with the water staring him in the face. Again the bunker shot was spot on, as was the 6ft par putt.

And so Rory becomes just the 16th player to become world number one in the 26 year history of the rankings. It might be a while before we see the 17th.

Rory McIlroy bags two-stroke cushion in Florida march to top ranking

McIlroy bags two-stroke cushion in Florida march to top ranking

Rory McIlroy holds a two-stroke lead
as he heads into the round which could see him crowned world number one
for the first time.

The 22-year-old Northern Irishman's
joint best-of-the-day 66 at the Honda Classic in Florida today took him
to 11 under par – and his two closest challengers entering the final day
are players ranked 269th and 216th.

They are Americans Tom Gillis and
Harris English, the former a 43-year-old self-confessed journeyman and
the other a 22-year-old rookie professional.

Rescue job: Rory McIlroy hits out of the bunker.

Rescue job: Rory McIlroy hits out of the bunker.

England's Justin Rose had shared the halfway lead with Gillis, but had to scramble for all he was worth for a one over 71 that left him in joint fourth place and four behind.

McIlroy has to win to dethrone Luke Donald at the top of the rankings, just as he did going into last week's Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson.

He made it all the way through to the final there, but then lost to American Ryder Cup player Hunter Mahan.

Perfect swing: Rory McIlroy tees off

Perfect swing: Rory McIlroy tees off

With television commentator Johnny Miller purring 'that's as good as you can swing' McIlroy looked a class act as he hit back from a sticky patch midway through the front nine.

McIlroy had a hat-trick of birdies starting on the long third, two-putting there and then holing from 22 and 10 feet. He was two clear at that point, but promptly bogeyed the next two, coming up short of the green on the sixth and three-putting the short seventh.

That gave Gillis the lead again and he stayed there with a remarkable run around the turn. On the eighth he took a shoe and sock off and rolled up his trouser leg to play his ball out of the edge of the water and holed from 33 feet for par.

He followed that with a 28-footer for another par, birdied the 10th from five feet and then rescued a further par from 33 feet again on the next.

In contention: Tom Gillis is near the top of the leaderboard

In contention: Tom Gillis is near the top of the leaderboard

McIlroy had birdied the 11th from 45 feet after his approach from the rough only just carried the lake and a glorious nine-iron to five feet at the 15th led to him regaining top spot on his own when Gillis failed to get up and down from sand there.

Bunkered in two at the par five last, McIlroy splashed out 12 feet past the flag, but made it to complete another fine day's work.

With the possibility of thunderstorms in the Palm Beach Gardens area on Sunday afternoon tournament organisers decided to move tee-times forward.

McIlroy is due to tee off at 10.30am local time in a threeball with Gillis and English. Winds as high as 25 mph are also expected.

London 2012 Olympics: Gemma Spofforth starting to believe dream

Spofforth starting to believe Olympic dream again after tumultuous 12 months

The issue of mental trauma and professional sport has been intricately linked by tragic events in recent months and few athletes know more about the subject than 100 metres backstroke world record holder and Olympic gold hopeful Gemma Spofforth.

Not only is it something she has experienced herself, she also works in that area as a volunteer between gruelling training sessions at her Florida base.

She went through plenty of trauma during what she admits was an extremely difficult 2011, and has also had many vicarious encounters with the darker side of life in her work on the phones at a local Samaritan-type operation where she lives in Gainesville.

Golden ambitions: Spofforth is aiming for the top in London this summer

Golden ambitions: Spofforth is aiming for the top in London this summer

But now one of the most naturally gifted swimmers on the British team believes she is ready to launch herself at the task of emerging triumphant in 2012, starting with this weekend's British Gas Swimming Championships at the Olympic venue.

The lows of the past 12 months have included the loss of her father's partner to illness, failure at the World Championships and a freak cycling accident that saw her break her nose and big toe.

The former episode was, clearly, the most significant, and especially hard as it brought back memories of losing her own mother, also to cancer, in 2007.

'There were many similarities, going to the same hospice, the same crematorium. I had put up a wall to the memories of what happened to my mother but what happened brought it all back,' recalls the honest Spofforth, speaking at an event run by her father's eponymous financial services company.

It all set her back three months, she now thinks, and contributed to her falling at the heats stage of last July's World Championships in Shanghai.

Swim the zone: Spofforth won gold in Rome in 2009 (above) and and also picked up a medal in the 200m Backstroke Final Budapest in 2010

Swim the zone: Spofforth won gold in Rome in 2009 (above) and and also picked up a medal in the 200m Backstroke Final Budapest in 2010

Swim the zone: Spofforth won gold in Rome in 2009 (above) and and also picked up a medal in the 200m Backstroke Final Budapest in 2010

That led to a long, dark night of the soul which appears to have been a turning point.

'The night of the heats I didn't sleep at all, just kept turning over in my head whether I wanted to do this any more,' she says. 'I had got food poisoning the day before my race but I should have done better. I decided that I was going to give it my all until the Olympics or quit. The choice has been to give it my all.'

All athletes will tell you that they are on a mental rollercoaster but for Spofforth, 24, you suspect the ride is more hairy than most.

Her desire to help others, and an inclination towards self-examination, mean that swimming is not enough, which is why she is a long-time staffer at the Alachua County Crisis Center, despite temporarily suspending her volunteering there.

'I will definitely go back but right now it is too draining on my emotions,' she says. Instead she opted to work two afternoons a week at a 'Second Chance' school for traumatised youngsters.

'I will do this right up to the Olympics, every Tuesday and Thursday. It is very rewarding.

'Whenever I am finished with swimming I will finish my training as a counsellor. To me it's special to be allowed to sit down with people and talk about their deepest fears and emotions. Every case is different and it is a privilege.'

Motivation: Spofforth believes she can defy the odds in London

Motivation: Spofforth believes she can defy the odds in London

Much less complex was the accident which befell her a month after Shanghai, when she was out on a training cycle and, due to a faulty gear change that abruptly stopped the bike, was thrown over the handlebars. She needed 15 stitches to clear things up.

Life has been smoother since, and she has decided to go for both the 200m and 100m in London. The latter is her stronger event, the one in which she set the world record time of 58.12 seconds in Rome two years ago in the course of winning at the previous World Championships.

This year has been encouraging, with decent performances at low-key local meets in America ahead of the serious business of ensuring her Olympic qualification this weekend.

'I have got my motivation back but I have got to believe in my gut that I can do it. Saying it is one thing, believing it is another. I am starting to believe again.'

Honda Classic: Live leaderboard

Honda Classic leaderboard: Keep up to date with the scores

The Florida Swing kicks off this week with the Honda Classic at PGA National.

Rory Sabbatini took the title last year and you can keep track of all the latest scores right here.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LIVE LEADERBOARD

Classic: Rory Sabbatini was celebrating his Honda success in 2011

Classic: Rory Sabbatini was celebrating his Honda success in 2011